Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds. - William Shakespeare

Plus One-half Solar Cycle (Six Human Months) and Ten Minutes

Sideswipe shut the door to his quarters, and leaned back against it with a sigh of relief.

Sunstreaker said to him through the bond, You did good.

"I know."

He still thinks you're crazy.

"Nothing to be done about that."


Plus One-half Solar Cycle

"Huh," Ratchet said, and thwacked a sample container with his finger. The energon inside, until just a moment ago Sideswipe's, lapped at the sides of its container.

"Huh, what?" said the Lambo, holding a cauterizer to the small wound Ratchet had inflicted. It finished its job and shut off; Sideswipe set it down gently on the berth he sat on.

Ratchet flashed the frontliner a smile that seemed to be powered by relief. "Huh, nothing. It looks like normal energon. I won't know until I get the tests back, but your luck seems to be holding out."

"Told you," said Sideswipe, leaving "so" off the end of that sentence. "You done with me?"

"For the moment. Get your aft out."

For Sideswipe, that was proof enough that Ratchet still loved him. He slid down off the berth, directed his cocky grin at Ratchet, and ambled toward the med bay doors.

Ratchet frowned at the perfectly innocent vial, then at Sideswipe's retreating back. Then he went to the complex machine that would tell him what was going on with Sideswipe.

Ratchet was out of the habit of allowing himself hope, even, or perhaps particularly, in the face of Sideswipe's consistent assertions. Still, it perched uneasily in his soul as he inserted the vial, and programmed the machine.

Plus One-quarter Solar Cycle (Three Human Months)

Sideswipe's face lit up like a neon sign. "Really? I can fight again?"

"Yes. You're cleared for full duty, unless things go south."

"They won't go south," Sideswipe said confidently, eeling down off the med-bay berth. "Thanks! I've really missed kicking Con aft."

"You won't thank me if you're wrong!" Ratchet shouted at his retreating back.

"Yeah, I know!" Sideswipe shouted back. "But you might actually have to rewrite those musty old books that talk about spark-split twins someday! Today could be that day, you know!"

Ratchet snorted.

Plus One-eighth Solar Cycle (Six Human Weeks)

The needle bit.

"Primus, mech, couldn't you just install an access port?" Sideswipe griped.

Ratchet snorted, and deliberately refrained, as he had for forty-odd planetary rotations, from applying a wrench to Sideswipe's helm. "You get worse battle damage than this all the time. Quiet."

He pulled delicately on the syringe plunger, withdrawing energon from the red warrior's systems.

Sideswipe was not the worst patient Ratchet had. That title might be a toss-up among Prime, Ironhide, and Fireflight … although Fireflight's damage was rarely intentional or even very serious, mostly the result of not looking where he was going at a couple of hundred miles an hour.

Prime, on the other hand, was reluctant to show weakness of any kind to his troops, and while he regarded Ratchet as both a friend and his personal physician, and knew that Ratchet gossiped to no bot about his Prime, still, when it came right down to it, Ratchet was among the "troops."

The big mech had so far failed to realize that this particular trooper had installed a monitor into the Prime's systems without telling him; useful for managing recalcitrant Primes, as Ratchet's forebears' notes had indicated. Maybe he should do that with Fireflight? Nah, Ratchet thought, it would just get him, Ratchet, goin' fourteen times a day. Let the Aerialbots bring the little glitch in when he needed it.

Ironhide was another one who had no patience for exams. Well, less "no patience for exams" than "a positive aversion to anything that didn't involve blowing targets up at a distance, with added loathing for medical procedures." Maybe any exam should take place on the firing range? Or maybe he could design some kind of corrosion killing gun, and let Ironhide sterilize the entire med bay at the end of each exam?

Actually, that could work, Ratchet thought, and pulled the needle from Sideswipe's system. He tucked the thought into the file marked "To Be Considered."

Ratchet handed Sideswipe a cauterizer: "Put this over the wound and push the blue button. If it hurts, take it off and call me. When the blue light goes out, take it off."

Ratchet went briskly to his office, and set the energon sample into the analyzer, coding in Sideswipe's ID and pushing another blue button. He turned in time to see Sideswipe sliding off the med bay berth.

"You get back up there! I'm not done with you yet!"

Sideswipe vented a put-upon sigh, but did as he was told, swinging his legs like a sparkling.

Ratchet arrived. "So how are you feeling?"

It was a casual question uttered in no casual tone at all. Sideswipe shrugged. "No different. No aches, no pains, no resonance problems."

"You hear voices?"

"Yours and Prowl's yelling at me, mostly."

Ratchet glowered. "You know that's not what I mean."

Sideswipe shrugged again. "No, then. Except for Sunny, through the bond."

Ratchet dropped his glare to note the red warrior's response. Then he rattled off an impressive list of problems, issues, and symptoms, stopping after every fifth or sixth one to say, "Any of those?"

Nineteen times, Sideswipe shook his head and said, "No."

After the nineteenth denial, Ratchet pumped up the glare to full-bore. "If you're hiding one of these from me, it's going to be harder to correct when it becomes overwhelming."

Sideswipe shook his head. "I'm not hiding anything, Ratchet. And I wouldn't do something that's dangerous to both Sunny and me. You're a little short on front-liners, if you hadn't noticed."

The machine in Ratchet's office beeped, and the medic stopped glaring at Sideswipe long enough to pull the results.

He frowned, less at the interruption or the machine's results (obstinately normal) than at Sideswipe's last statement. "You can go," he said to Sideswipe, not bothering to look up. "If I comm you I want you back in here as fast as your little legs can carry you. You're cleared to spar."

"Yes, sir," Sideswipe said cheerfully, and shouted, "Thanks, Ratch!" when almost out the door, letting nothing stand between himself and escape.

Plus Five Planetary Rotations

At the daily senior staff meeting, Ratchet shrugged. "I don't know why. There simply isn't enough data to tell me, or even give me a basis on which to hazard a guess. He seems to be recovering normally, so far, outside of some rambling statements about 'reuniting with Sunny' when we first recovered him. I put them down to shock. I've since seen nothing to indicate the presence of any troubling issues."

Optimus nodded. "Keep us informed. Right now I think he should stay on medical leave."

"Yes, I think so too. But we'll have to keep him occupied, or else — "

Optimus didn't need to finish that sentence. Prowl put his face into his hands, and Jazz grinned.

Plus Two Joor

"Oh, Primus," Ratchet said.

Optimus cast him a glance, then went directly to Sideswipe. "Come on, soldier, get up."

Sideswipe laid Sunstreaker gently on the alien earth, and rose. He stood patiently as Ratchet ran an extensive scan and then met Optimus' eyes, and shook his head.


He watched it happen with a growing sense of horror, the feeling that he was running through quicksand, and that no matter how fast he ran, it wasn't going to be fast enough.

His brother needed him, and he, Sideswipe, was letting Sunstreaker down.

The dive by the Seeker, his brother turning at bay, firing until the Seeker shattered one arm with very lucky shot, then downed by null-rays, firing the remaining cannon until Starscream put another round through his other shoulder, then the Air Commander describing a graceful circle into the empyrean, not circling back to see whether he'd left Sunny alive or dead: uncaring … and still Sideswipe couldn't run fast enough. He fired his jet-pack.

His flight, though, was horizontal. Revenge was one thing, and Primus how Sideswipe wanted to catch up to the Deceptiocns' Air Commander, turn on the pile-drivers, and pound Starscream into yesterday. His whole soul and spark yearned for that, for the easy violence of revenge.

But. Sunstreaker lay crumpled - at least one leg strut, and both the upper-arm struts, had been broken. Worse than the visible damage were Sunny's fixed-open optics, which did not blink as Sideswipe knelt beside him.

"Bro?" Sides said gently, and put a hand on Sunny's shoulder.

He got an answer, but not an audible one … across the bond, Sunny said, Sides.

Here, bro.

Sides, I'm fading. He sliced my main energon line. Spark-merge with me, Sides.

No! I've gotta get help! Sideswipe's frantic hands were everywhere, but not quick enough; he could see that beneath his split-spark twin energon continued to spread in a fast-rising pool.

Sunstreaker actually managed to smile. I know where Ratchet is, I know where First Aid is, I know how fast I'm pumping out. No time.

Sunny. Pain in Sideswipe's voice, panic still in those hands, darting among the ruins.

We're spark-split twins, Sides. I'm on my way out. The only way for you to stay alive is to merge with me before I check out. Sunstreaker paused. And I want you to stay alive, Sides. Spark-merge with me. That'll reunite our spark. If we do this, maybe somehow I can come with you. And I haven't got a lot of time, so could you hurry … please.

Sideswipe went from "desperate" to "resigned" in two kliks, and was never again the same bot afterward. He grimaced, popped his chestplates open roughly, and Sunny's much more gently.

Afterward, his spark whole for the first time in his life, Sideswipe sat with his brother's graying corpse in his arms, and waited for Ratchet.

Waiting, but not alone. Never again alone.